We published a longer interview with Sherry before her Ruth Easton New Play Series workshop earlier this year, but we also wanted to share this mini-interview with one of theater’s great thinkers.
How does teaching influence your writing?
The conversations I have with my students are exhilarating. Their discoveries as they assemble the tools to carry their vision, their delight when they read plays that break open their understanding of what is possible on stage—it’s just a gorgeous thing to watch. Mostly, though, teaching keeps me aware of the faith and the need that the act of theater-making requires. So teaching keeps me aware, always, of the sacred in our art form.
What themes do you find yourself returning to in your writing?
I’ve been obsessed with the big and the small from the time I started looking for a way to understand the world. I wanted to discover how the smallest things can and be the largest things—a kiss. The moment you turn left instead of right. A breath. I’m also obsessed with charity—which is the act of caring for people who are not your own in a small way, but who are your own in the big way.
What do you do when you’re stuck on something you’re writing?
Go work on something else. Read or watch something wonderful. Let the outside world, nature, fill me up. I let the play work itself out when I’m not looking.
How does form influence content in your work?
Oh, I’m absolutely sure that in the theater there’s no difference between form and content. Unless you’re writing a relentlessly narrative play, where there’s no form, really, you’re just putting a story on stage… I believe that theater is a metaphorical art form, and so everything about a great play is embedded in the nature of the structure—the delivery system that we use to give it to the audience.
Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a playwright I would be…
Lost. If I were not always trying to discover the patterns of what people need from each other and what the mysteries of love and loss mean… I don’t know how I’d get through a single dark night.
What artists inspire you and why?
I am undone by artists who use all the language of sight and sound and metaphor to make their art. The Rude Mechs, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Robert Wilson.
What do you wish someone would have told you about playwriting that you had to learn the hard way?
How to say no to a production that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes you have to remember that sometimes the only thing worse than not getting your play produced is getting your play produced.
What were you like as a kid?
A big know it all. A comedian with sharp, sharp nails.
How do you make time for writing/dreaming/creating in your life?
The bigger question is how do I make time for everything else. And the answer is: badly, I think.